The Secret Life of John

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In the last few years the media has become inundated with stories about sex workers: feminist sex-workers; high-end, blogging call girls; coerced trafficking-victims. But in each, the buyer remains faceless. Even the word “John” conjures a shady, hidden, back alley-image. This is what I set out to uncover.

Tapping into Craigslist and online “hobbyist” communities, I interviewed dozens of men that buy sex, giving them a chance to tell their personal stories. My hope was not to gloss over real instances of violence and abuse, but to understand each buyer’s individual story. I wanted to remove those shadows so we could all see a little more clearly the legal issues of sex work.

“John,” it seems, is every man.

  •  Video: What Johns Have to do with Sex Workers Rights
    A talk I gave about my interviews with buyers at the Jane Adams Hull House for International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers
  • The Secret Life of John
    Part 1, who is John?
  • The Secret Life of Jane
    If a “John” is a guy who buys sex, is a woman who buys sex a “Jane”? The last installment of “The Secret Life of Johns” asked: Who are these men that buy sex and why do they do it? But now I propose the question: Does “Jane” exist?
  • Trafficking
    Trafficking outreach programs and charities are often run by anti prostitution groups – who tend to paint all sex work as trafficking. However, what does legitimate trafficking look like and who is affected? In my interviews with sex buyers for my series The Secret Life of Johns the trafficking question inevitably arose.
  • Sex Workers on Questioning Anti-Trafficking Orgs
    Here I talk with Audacia Ray of The Red Umbrella Diaries, Furry Girl of SWAAY, Sarah E. Patterson of SWOP NYC, Serpent Libertine of SWOP Chicago and former sex worker and activist Veronica Monet. Sex trafficking is a real and horrific problem. This discussion  is about finding better ways to tackle that problem.
  • Violence and Sex Work
    Is the Long Island Serial Killer a john? Searching for the truth about violence and sex work.
  • What About the Wife?
    Prostitution hurts marriage, doesn’t it? This has often been used as an argument against sex work — it’s not only demeaning but endangering to unknowing wives. But, this isn’t an argument about the morality of sex work — it’s about the morality of cheating. Still, when talking to Johns, I had to ask: How are the wives actually affected?
  • If it wasn’t a Secret, Would it Exist?
    Would there be sex work in a sexually non-repressed society? It’s one of those philosophical questions to wax over, in all of its unicorn-like glory. After all what does “sexually non-repressed” society even mean? Would we all be polyamorous…wearing fig leaves for clothes?
  • Sex Worker Roundtable – Part 1
    We associate the word “John” with the word “trick.” It’s been reported this is because, on the street level, the sex worker is trying to “trick” him into as much money as possible — it’s part of “the game.” But what do sex workers really think of their clients? Are they trying to scam them? And what do they think about what our Johns have had to say?
  • Sex Worker Roundtable – Part 2
    Falling in Love with Clients, Marriage and Paying for Sex as a Woman
  • Sex Workers and Johns Come Together
    The Naked Truth is an online community where sex workers come together to talk openly, share resources, and vent about bad clients. There are other such forums online, where sex workers gather, but what makes The Naked Truth unique is that those “bad clients” are often a part of the conversation.